Marshy Point Ospreys

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About the Osprey

Assuming they are the same pair that has been here the past two years (normal behavior for osprey), this is their fourth year nesting on our platform at Marshy Point Nature Center.

YearNest OspreyKnown Outcomes
2017PlatformMP5 MP43 eggs were laid and two hatched. Both osprey fledged successfully
2016PlatformMP33 eggs were laid and one egg hatched. The nestling was believed to be female. She fledged on July 26.
3 eggs were laid and two eggs hatched. Both young fledged.
2014PlatformNAThe osprey attempted to nest but did not lay eggs.

Scientific name: Pandion haliaetus (only animal in the Pandionidae family)
Other names: Fish Hawk, Bay Hawk, Sea Eagle, Sea Hawk

Distribution: Population estimate of 460,000 worldwide. Osprey are the second most widely distributed raptor, behind the Peregrine Falcon. They are found on all continents except Antarctica.

Size: About two feet tall. 2-4.6 pounds. 50-71 inch wingspan.

Habitat: Osprey make large nests near any body of water with sufficient food source. Their nest is made from sticks with a softer patch in the middle for laying eggs. In late August, after their young have successfully fledged, they will migrate to South America until the following March. The year old osprey usually remain in South America for one more year.

Lifespan: 10 years but as old as 25.

Description: Generally dark on the back and wings with white on the top of the head and extending from under the chin down the belly. A black stripe runs through the eye to the back of the next. In flight, the osprey can be distinguished from the bald eagle by the white belly and the crooked wings with dark wrist patches. Females have a pattern of brown feathers across their chest. They have a dark bill and white feet. The male is generally smaller than the female. Young osprey have red eyes which turn yellow as they age.

Breeding: Osprey usually mate until death and return to the same nest every year. Osprey start breeding about age 3-4 but that is dependent on availability of nesting sites. In the Chesapeake Bay, where there is a scarcity of nesting sites, osprey often delay breeding until 7 years of age. The female usually lays 2-4 eggs over a 5 day period. Both parents share incubation duty which averages 5 weeks. Once hatched, both male and female feed and care for the young and train them for months. Young osprey fledge in 8-10 weeks. The breeding season in the Chesapeake Bay begins in April and usually ends in August when the chicks are fledged.

Diet: The osprey is the only member of the hawk family to survive primarily (99%) on live fish.

Fishing success: In one study, Osprey were found to catch fish 1 out of 4 dives and takes an average of 12 minutes to catch a fish. When flying with a fish, it turns it head first in its talons so as to cut down on wind resistance.

Adaptations: Osprey have vision that is well adapted to detecting underwater objects from the air. Prey is first sighted when the osprey is 10–40 m (33–131 ft) above the water, after which the bird hovers momentarily then plunges feet first into the water. Another adaptation is that their nostrils are closable. Its toes are of equal length, and it can turn two to the front and two to the back so as to hold onto slippery prey easier. It has a rough, scaly patch between its feet to assist with this as well.

Fishing success: In one study, Osprey were found to catch fish 1 out of 4 dives and takes an average of 12 minutes to catch a fish. When flying with a fish, it turns it head first in its talons so as to cut down on wind resistance.

During 13 days, one Osprey with a tracking device flew 2700 miles.

About Marshy Point Center

Marshy Point Nature Center, a Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks facility, opened in the Spring of 2000. The center is located on land acquired by the County in 1982 from the Weiskittel and Zelinski families. The area around Marshy Point has a rich tradition of waterfowl hunting, and President Benjamin Harrison, Babe Ruth, and Annie Oakley all hunted here.

The development of Maryland’s state dog, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, took place at the Marshy Point Ducking Club and winter still brings rafts of ducks, geese, and tundra swans to area creeks. Fishermen have long explored the waters around Marshy Point in search of rockfish, chain pickerel, perch, catfish, and blue crabs.

Marshy Point Nature Center provides a variety of enjoyable and educational programs for visitors of all ages. School and group programs are available during the week, and a quarterly calendar includes nature programming on a variety of topics. In addition, every fifth grade student in the Baltimore County Public Schools system visits Marshy Point as part of their environmental education curriculum.

The Marshy Point Nature Center Council is a volunteer organization that works with the Department of Recreation and Parks to support the work of the Nature Center and the mission of environmental education. The Nature Council hosts monthly audiovisual presentations by natural resource professionals and noted naturalists. Other programs include water-oriented summer camps for a variety of ages, Monday Pre-K drop-ins, bird walks, canoeing, boat trips, and many other seasonal programs. Special events include the Popsicle Plunge and annual Spring and Fall Festivals.